Oct 9, 2020

Closed Until Further Notice

The pandemic has hit movie theaters pretty hard in 2020.  With the lack of new movies coming out of Hollywood, theaters that have reopened since the lockdown have been screening many classic movies.  This began in my local theater in late August with movies from the Rocky franchise, including the original 1976 classic film

This was followed up throughout September and early October with other vintage films, including a 40th Anniversary screening of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, the Don Bluth 80's classic animated film, The Land Before Time, and the early 90's family horror classic, Hocus Pocus.

While I have been absolutely thrilled with this decision to screen movies from the 70's, 80's and 90's, it appears that Regal Cinemas aren't too happy with the results.  I can't say that I blame them.  There was only one other family in the theater when I saw Rocky and Hocus Pocus.  This was double the attendance of Star Wars and The Land Before Time.  On both occasions, the only car in the parking lot besides mine belonged to the theater manager.  We had the entire theater to ourselves, with every movie screening to empty seats except the one that I was watching.

Covid-19 is unquestionably to blame for this turn of events as responsible people have spent most of the year avoiding public places where people gather indoors.  Quite frankly, the only reason I decided to go is because I expected that the theater wouldn't be very busy.  I live in a small town, and even in the pre-pandemic days, you could be reasonably sure that you would have an entire row of seats to yourself unless you were going to see something on a Friday or Saturday night.  I didn't expect to have an entire theater to myself, and I'm sure Regal didn't either.

The last straw seems to have been the recent decision by Universal Pictures to once again push back their release of the latest James Bond flick, No Time To Die.  It was originally scheduled for April 2020 before being pushed back to November 25th.  This month, it was announced that due to the second wave of Covid-19 and the closure of theaters around the world, the premier would be rescheduled for April 2021.

It wasn't long after the second 007 delay that reports in the media began to surface that the Regal Cinema chain would close its doors on Thursday, October 8th.  When I went to see Hocus Pocus this past Sunday, I asked the theater manager about the closure that was reported by CNN, he dismissed it as "internet rumors" and said that he received an email from corporate which confirmed that Regal would be closed on weekdays, but would remain open for business on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  Sadly, the "internet rumors" turned out to be true, as Regal Cinema finally issued a press release to inform that all theaters in the chain will temporarily suspend operations until further notice.

I can understand why they made this decision.  You can't run a business in which you can count your daily customers in the single digits.  My concern at this point is if theaters in small towns like mine will reopen for business alongside all of the others, or if the less profitable locations have closed their doors for the last time.